For Natalie: Parents need to stop it with the Shaming

 

Yesterday on my Facebook feed I saw a picture of a young teenage girl, sitting on some stairs and holding up a sign that read: “My name is Natalie*. I am a kind, caring, smart girl but I make poor choices with social media. As a punishment, I am selling my IPod and will be donating the money to the charity Beat Bullying, in hopes of changing my behavior as well as bringing awareness to bullying. Because bullying is wrong.” (What in the world would her punishment have been if she refused to write the sign and take the picture? What could be worse than this as a teenage girl? Standing naked in the middle of the mall?!? Plus she still has to sell her Ipod  because being humiliated in front of thousands of people isn’t punishment enough? Remember when we could just look the other person in the eye and say that we’re sorry? That was no easy task, either, and we actually learned a lesson from it.)

My heart immediately went out to this young girl. I can’t begin to imagine the shame and humiliation that she is currently feeling. (Heck, I freak out when I’m tagged in an unflattering picture that only a few people see on Facebook.) I was also flabbergasted by the number of parents that actually liked this post and congratulated Natalie’s mother on a job well done. I am usually not the one to judge another person’s parenting skills. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to do what’s best for our children. We suffer enough self-doubt and guilt on our own and the last thing we need is another parent adding fuel to the fire. But, on behalf of Natalie and all the other kids who are being publicly shamed by their families, it’s time to speak up for these kids. No matter the offense, public humiliation is never okay. It’s not funny. It’s not righting a wrong. It’s creating an even bigger problem because the only lesson it’s teaching is that parents are the biggest bullies of all and our children will hate us for it.

Disciplining kids is not an easy thing. We are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to lose control and blow it every now and then. None of us is perfect. One of our main jobs as parents is to correct and guide our children by teaching them empathy, by teaching them the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. You want your son to honor you? You must also honor your son.  The goal of discipline should never be to induce guilt or shame. All this will do is create a rip in your relationship with your child. Your daughter looks to you as her protection, her safety in the crazy storm of life. What happens when she begins to see you as the tornado? Discipline should come from a place of love. It should be a learning opportunity for growth. Discipline should teach how to right a wrong. Discipline should shame the behavior but should never shame the child. 
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Can we agree as caring parents that enough is enough? Can we stop humiliating our young and instead lead by example? Can we stop shaming our kids instead of truly disciplining them? Because, as Natalie said, bullying is wrong.

*I intentionally changed the name of the teenage girl and did not post her picture to avoid spreading her name and image even further. Unfortunately, her story and hundreds like hers are real.

Ahimsa

I read somewhere that our calendars reveal the truth of our craziness. In my life, this has been proven true time and time again. The more I try and cram every breathable space with activities and appointments, no matter how fun they seem at the time, the more out of balance my life becomes. When I lose my balance, it’s usually only a matter of time until I fall. I never fall gracefully, either. When I fall, I usually create a huge mess on the way down. This last time was no exception.

Christmas break started off harmlessly enough. Hadley, my 4 year old daughter, had three weeks off from her preschool.  My husband also had time off from work and so we tried to plan some fun activities for us to do together. Since both of our families live close, we attempted to space out Christmas activities so that we were able to see everyone without being rushed. This year, that meant starting on Dec. 23rd and going full throttle until Dec. 27th, for a total of 7 different gatherings, 3 of which we would be hosting at our house.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the shit hit the fan, but hit the fan it did. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t had a second to myself in 6 days or maybe it was the fact that Christmas literally vomited all over my house, but I found myself turning into robot-woman one afternoon as I frantically began cleaning out Hadley’s playroom to make room for all of her new Christmas treasures.

Christmas vomited all over my house.

Christmas vomited all over my house.

Kirby took one look at my flashing eyes and crazy hair, grabbed our daughter, and headed outside. My breathing was like that of a pissed off dragon, shallow and loud, almost panting. I took great pleasure in throwing away and donating box after box of old junk and trash. Cleaning always helps calm me down when I feel like I’ve lost all sense of control. After a few hours of some pretty intense house work, I finally slowed down and caught my breath. I happened to see my reflection in the mirror and realized that I had completely lost it. I grabbed my mat, hollered to Kirby that I was leaving, and headed to yoga class.

Freedom. Time for myself for the first time in 6 long, exhausting days. After the best yoga class of my life, I drove home and spent some time in reflection. I realized that by trying to be superwoman, by trying to please everyone, I had forgotten to please myself. My ability to love others is directly related to how well I love myself. I had allowed the craziness of the holidays to make me feel hurried, powerless, and out of balance. To live a balanced life, I must listen to the guidance and wisdom of my inner voice. I sometimes believe the lie that sacrificing myself is worth the cost to be there for others, yet all it does it cause me to become frustrated and angry. In reality, when I spread myself too thin, I have nothing left for anyone.

I usually hate New Year’s Resolutions. I have tried them in the past as some vain attempt to change something that I didn’t like about myself. What I have found is that any attempt I make to change myself keeps me trapped in a vicious cycle.  Instead, this year I’m going to have the goal of loving myself more so that I am better able to love and serve others. I have realized that I can’t be harsh and demanding with myself and then expect to be loving towards others. It just doesn’t work that way. Love demands a self in balance, a self that is not frustrated or angry as a result of feeling out of control. Love means taking time for my own needs and not feeling guilty for taking some time for myself. It means being brave enough to let my own walls down, to fully accept myself, failures and all, so that I am better able to connect more authentically with those that I love. After all, the love I have for others comes directly from the love that I have for myself. When I feel empty, I have nothing to give. When I am able to love myself by rising above anger, doubt, aggression, fear, jealousy and resentment, I will be able to love fully from my heart instead of just going through the motions. Peace begins with me.